Viviparus georgianus (I. Lea, 1834)

Common Name: Banded mysterysnail

Synonyms and Other Names:

banded applesnail, pondsnail, Vivipara contectoides Binney 1865, Paludina georgiana I. Lea, 1834

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Identification: Viviparus georgianus is a freshwater prosobranch (gills in front of heart) snail species complex with a thin and smooth shell, yellow-green in color with a straight outer lip, often with four distinctive brown bands present on the body whorl (Clench 1962; Mackie et al. 1980). The species complex has a very variable shell morphology, and the shell bands are sometimes absent (Clench and Fuller 1965), but it always has an adextral (right-handed) shell with 3–5 inflated whorls separated by deeply indented incisions.

Size: One-year old snails are 12–17 mm; at 2 years, 17–21 mm; and at 3 years, 21–30 mm (Lee et al. 2002). The maximum height is 45 mm (Jokinen 1992).

Native Range: The banded mysterysnail is native to North America, and is generally found in waterbodies of the southeastern and midwestern United States, from Central Florida up to northern Illinois, and throughout the eastern part of the Mississippi Drainage (Clench 1962). It is unclear whether the native range of this species includes the Tennessee River Drainage, but it is likely introduced to the drainage given the absence of the species from very extensive surveys from shell collectors in the area during mid-late 1800s (Clench 1962).

Table 1. Great Lakes region nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state/province, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Viviparus georgianus are found here.

Full list of USGS occurrences

State/ProvinceFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
IL196219622Little Calumet-Galien; Pike-Root
IN200820142St. Joseph; St. Joseph
MI1980201932Au Gres-Rifle; Au Sable; Boardman-Charlevoix; Brule; Carp-Pine; Cheboygan; Clinton; Detroit; Fishdam-Sturgeon; Flint; Keweenaw Peninsula; Lake Huron; Lake Michigan; Lake Superior; Lower Grand; Manistee; Manistique River; Maple; Menominee; Michigamme; Muskegon; Ontonagon; Ottawa-Stony; Pere Marquette-White; Raisin; Saginaw; Shiawassee; St. Joseph; St. Marys; Thornapple; Tiffin; Tittabawassee
MN200620182Beartrap-Nemadji; Cloquet
NY1914201715Cattaraugus; Lake Champlain; Lake Erie; Lake Ontario; Lower Genesee; Mettawee River; Niagara River; Northeastern Lake Ontario; Oneida; Oswego; Raquette; Seneca; Southwestern Lake Ontario; St. Lawrence; Upper Genesee
VT196220203Lake Champlain; Mettawee River; Otter Creek
WI1906201916Bad-Montreal; Beartrap-Nemadji; Black-Presque Isle; Brule; Door-Kewaunee; Duck-Pensaukee; Lake Michigan; Lake Winnebago; Manitowoc-Sheboygan; Menominee; Milwaukee; Oconto; Ontonagon; Peshtigo; Upper Fox; Wolf

Table last updated 12/2/2023

† Populations may not be currently present.

Ecology: This species is found in freshwater low-flow lentic streams, lakes, and ponds. It is often present with soft, silty and/or rocky substrates, but is present in a variety of habitats, including sand and detritus bottoms (Duch 1976; Browne 1978). It is usually absent from larger, faster-flowing rivers (Katoh and Foltz 1994); however, it can survive conditions of high water velocity in the St. Lawrence River, and may even be better adapted than the introduced Bithynia tentaculata (mud bithynia) to such habitat (Vincent 1979). Individuals are generally found in waters with pH between 6.3 and 8.5. (Duch 1976; Wade and Vasey 1976; Vincent 1979; Jokinen and Pondick 1981; Pace and Szuch 1985; Jokinen 1992; Lee et al. 2002). However, shell repair is reduced at lower pHs (David et al. 2020). Banded mysterysnail is also sensitive to high salt concentrations. As a proxy for road salt pollution, experimental tanks spiked with chloride (15, 100, 250, 500, and 1000 Cl–/L) led to significant mortality of banded mysterysnails at concentrations >500 mg Cl–/L (Hintz et al. 2017).

Banded mysterysnail often lives at high densities, sometimes up to 864/m2 (Pace and Szuch 1985; Lee et al. 2002). It inhabits shallow waters, often amongst macrophytes, in spring to fall, before moving out to deeper areas to overwinter away from shore (Jokinen et al. 1982; Wade 1985; Lee et al. 2002), where it will burrow under the substrate for a period of inactivity (Pace and Szuch, 1985). In more open waters, fall migration begins earlier than in smaller lakes and ponds (Lee et al. 2002). Most growth generally occurs when waters become warmer in spring and summer, although reduced growth continues in winter (Browne 1978; Jokinen et al. 1982).

Breeding takes place in the spring (Pace and Szuch 1985). It is dioecious (distinctly male or female) and ovoviviparous, with females laying eggs singly in albumen-filled capsules and brooding them for 9–10 months; this species is one of very few gastropods to give birth to live young (Browne 1978; Jokinen et al. 1982; Rivest and Vanderpool 1986; Lee et al. 2002).  In its non-native range, fecundity ranges from 4–81 young per female per year, but on average, is closer to 11 young per female (Vail 1978; Jokinen 1992; Keller et al. 2007). Females can brood more than one clutch of young at a time and the number of young in one brood is positively related to the size of the female (Vail 1977). Some populations are known to reach sexual maturity within one or two years and reproduce iteroparously (more than once in life), while other populations have been known to breed semelparously (breed only once in life), not reaching sexual maturity until year three of life before dying (Dillon et al. 2006). The lifespan of the female banded mysterysnail is typically between 28–48 months, while males live between 18–36 months (Jokinen et al. 1982; Lee et al. 2002). The group is sexually dimorphic with females growing larger and faster than males, and reproductive females usually larger than 16 mm (Browne 1978; Buckley 1986).

Banded mysterysnail is known to be a facultative, or even obligate, filter-feeding detritivore (Browne 1978; Lee et al., 2002). This species grazes on diatom clusters found on silt and mud substrates, but may require the ingestion of some grit to break down algae (Duch, 1976). With a variable diet, it will readily consume a herbivorous diet of algae and diatoms, but will also consume fish eggs (Duch 1976; Eckblad and Shealy 1972; Mackie et al. 1980; Jokinen et al. 1982; Lee et al. 2002).

Means of Introduction: The earliest introduction of this species to the Hudson River drainage was made by an amateur conchologist who purposefully released around 200 of these snails simultaneously into the river in the 1850s (Jokinen 1992; Mills et al. 1993). Later introductions were likely made via release from aquaria (Mills et al. 1993), but a one study found that this species is very resistant to desiccation, making it very capable of being dispersed over land via boat or other means (Havel et al. 2014).

Great Lakes: The first record of this species in the Great Lakes basin most likely came from the Hudson River drainage, via the Erie Canal and Mohawk River, in 1867 (Mills et al. 1993). It was later reported from the Lake Michigan watershed by 1906 and Lake Erie by 1914.

Status: This species is considered established in the waterbodies in which it is introduced.

Great Lakes: Widespread, with populations reproducing and overwintering at self-sustaining levels in all five Great Lakes.

Great Lakes Impacts:
Summary of species impacts derived from literature review. Click on an icon to find out more...


Viviparus georgianus has a moderate environmental impact in the Great Lakes.


Large die offs of banded mysterysnail on lake shorelines leaves thousands of rotting snails and their shells covering coastal habitat (Decaire 2021).


This species is known to be the intermediate host for trematodes and has, as a result, been involved in spreading parasites to aquatic birds, resulting in large avian die-offs. In 2007, over 3,000 scaup and coots died in a Northern Wisconsin lake as a result of ingesting the infected, non-native snails, with many more birds unable to fly because of the infection (Smith 2007).

The banded mystery snail may prey on fish embryos. Viviparus georgianus has been shown to significantly reduce survival of largemouth bass eggs in guarded nests both in the laboratory and in ponds, and may contribute to high incubation mortality seen in natural field settings (Eckblad and Shealy 1972). Banded mystersnail may also outcompete native species and impact predator prey dynamics.  In a three year field study in Lake George, this species dominated the 7 species snail community making up on average 77% of the individuals per sample. In a laboratory study, the presence of banded mysterysnails reduced the biomass of native snail competitors 14–27% under low- and high-nutrient concentrations, respectively. It also led to the loss of 29% of the biomass of the native snail predator northern clearwater crayfish (Faxonius propinquus), but only in low nutrient conditions (Hintz et al. 2019).

Viviparus georgianus has a moderate socio-economic impact in the Great Lakes.


Large die offs of banded mysterysnail on lake shorelines leaves water putrid and unfavorable for recreation (Decaire 2021).

There is little or no evidence to support that Viviparus georgianus has significant beneficial effects in the Great Lakes.

Various fish and bird species are known to feed on the snail (Eckblad and Shealy 1972; Smith 2007). Anecdotal evidence suggests that mallard ducks are adapting to foraging on this species in Lake George, New York. Because it is a filter-feeding detritivore, Viviparus georgianus is a bioindicator of sediment contamination by oil and fertilizer, because growth, survival and histology are significantly affected by ingestion of contaminated sediments (Browne 1978; Lee et al. 2002).

Management: Regulations (pertaining to the Great Lakes region)

There are no known regulations for this species.

Note: Check federal, state/provincial, and local regulations for the most up-to-date information.

Specific control methods for Viviparus georgianus have yet to be developed.

Manipulation of predator fishes and turtles that eat snails may be useful in the control of snail populations.  However, as a relatively large snail species, Viviparus georgianus may escape predation by smaller fishes. 

There are no known physical control methods for this species.

There are copper compounds that are sold as snailicides but they are usually not selective in the snails they kill. With Viviparus georgianus possessing the ability to “close up”, more damage would probably occur to native snails in the treatment area than to the target pest.

Note: Check state/provincial and local regulations for the most up-to-date information regarding permits for control methods. Follow all label instructions.

Remarks: This species is very similar to the European Viviparus viviparus. It is possible that some introduced populations could actually be V. viviparus, which is a European species that is indistinguishable from V. georgianus (Mills et al. 1993). This species is also similar in shell shape and distribution with Viviparus intertextus and Viviparus subpureus (K. Cummings, Illinois Natural History Survey, pers. comm., July 24, 2018).

Using allozyme data, Katoh and Foltz (1994) found that Viviparus georgianus is actually a species complex; speciation has occurred within the group in the southeastern United States due to the separation of populations by large rivers that act as barriers for dispersal. Three distinct species were found to be in the Georgia-Florida drainages, each grouping by drainage: V. georgianus formed a western group in the Choctawhatchee and Apalachicola River Drainages, Callinina limi formed a central group in the Ochlockonee River Drainage and southwestern Georgia, while Callinina goodrichi was found to be present in the most eastern rivers extending into the Florida Peninsula. The genetic identities of some populations remain undetermined, such as those of the Altamaha, Mississippi and St. Lawrence River drainages, and are therefore named as part of the V. georgianus species complex (Katoh and Foltz 1994). A later genetic study found populations introduced in New York to group with the western complex, Viviparus georginaus (David et al. 2017).

This species’ migration, which typically results in individuals burrowing under mud during the fall and winter months, has led to an underrepresentation of the species during sampling (Pace and Szuch 1985).

References (click for full reference list)

Author: Morningstar, C.R., W.M. Daniel, J. Larson, A. Fusaro, and A. Bartos

Contributing Agencies:

Revision Date: 3/24/2022

Peer Review Date: 3/24/2022

Citation for this information:
Morningstar, C.R., W.M. Daniel, J. Larson, A. Fusaro, and A. Bartos, 2023, Viviparus georgianus (I. Lea, 1834): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, and NOAA Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System, Ann Arbor, MI,, Revision Date: 3/24/2022, Peer Review Date: 3/24/2022, Access Date: 12/2/2023

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.